Bitter Gourd Blues

Yesterday we ate karela for dinner. It’s a vegetable eaten by many cultures around the world including China, Japan, India, Nepal, and various parts of Africa and the Caribbean. However, it is not a vegetable I ever encountered until the Nepalese influenced my diet.

But unlike other delicious Nepali foods– karela is not something I will be adding to my menu rotation, at least not when I’m cooking. The vegetable has other names that I think better represent the food’s flavor: Bitter Gourd or Bitter Melon, and the smaller South Asian version is even more bitter than the larger Chinese variation. Unlike sweet or even sour, bitter is not a taste I prefer to savor.

Karela wound up on our plates that night because P’s younger brother U had been visiting our house for the week for the Dashain holiday. Last night was his last evening, so he got to decide what we ate for dinner, and he decided on bitter gourd.

The vegetable looks like it is trying to impersonate a warty toad. Nepalese like to slice it into thin slivers along with onions and potatoes and fry with spices to make tarkari or achar.

While helping AS slice the vegetables I thought… hmmm, I better grab my camera and document, especially since this isn’t a vegetable that regularly graces my refrigerator.

Whole karela and sliced karela

Sliced Nepali style

I'm showing my love for karela while cooking dinner

Bitter gourd also apparently has many medicinal properties such as curing stomach ailments, purifying blood and circulation, I even read somewhere that laboratory tests suggest that compounds in bitter gourd could be effective for treating HIV!

So even though I’ve already decided which side of the karela divide I am on, I suggest giving it a go. It truly is a Nepalese favorite. If you want to try I found a recipe online that has a technique that supposedly helps to cut a bit of the bitterness. Let me know how it goes :)

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8 responses to “Bitter Gourd Blues

  1. It is such a healthy vegetable. If one drinks juice of bitter gourd, the person will never have any diabetes or it can cure diabetes like disease. This is my most most favourite vegetable. :-)…..

  2. I tried this last week! I was sitting with A and his friend and A told me he wanted me to try it. A’s friend said “Don’t, my mother used to make me eat this as a punishment!”

    Well I will try about anything once. It’s terrible, like eating ground aspirin with a Robitussin chaser.

  3. I have seen this for a sale a few times in my local supermarket but have not yet been brave enough to buy it, mainly because I had no idea what to do with it. It’s much easier to be brave with fruits – peel and eat!

  4. YUCK! Bitter gourd is one of my least favorite things I’ve eaten since I’ve been in India. My MIL fixes stuffed bitter gourd and always gives me one. I usually try one bite and then pass it off to my husband to finish.

    I think she gives it to me just to see the face I make from the awful taste!LOL

  5. It was good to have Karela after a really long time. AS did a good job cooking it. It was delicious but certainly not as close to my mom’s cooking though. =)

  6. honeybeeluvsjackfruit

    Hehe, cute post. They are rather photogenic, aren’t they? I actually like bitter gourd in some forms (not so much in sambhar), but I can see why some palates would not! I usually slice and salt them.. probably depletes some of the vitamins too though.

    I have some in the fridge which I’m thinking of stuffing. Hopefully I get around to snapping some pics of it.

  7. Oh, I cannot stand bitter gourd either. On my first trip to India Aditya’s father took me to dine with some of his army buddies in Bombay – except “army buddies” turned out to be a four-star general and his wife. The lunch spread was wonderful… except it featured bitter gourd, which I had accidentally heaped on to my plate. That was a difficult meal to finish!

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